Sticks & stones...?
In a world full of virtual bullying and negative self-talk, it's obvious that words are very powerful. Whether loving or hurtful, words hold a place in our hearts and our minds, for better or for worse. They have energy behind them. They create memories and feelings that if left unchecked can create stuck emotions in our bodies and our minds. The ways in which we communicate with ourselves and others affects us in more profound ways than we realize.
“I have hated words and I have loved them, and I hope I have made them right.”
― Markus Zusak, The Book Thief
Mindfulness is one of the first steps toward realizing how our words are affecting us. When I first learned about sadhana practice, my teacher stressed the importance of speaking in the affirmative as we were writing out our sadhana goals. Why? Because one 'negative' or 'low vibration' phrase could throw off the energy and intention behind the entire practice.
Speaking in the affirmative is life-changing because in order to speak positively, we must think positively.
In order to think in the affirmative, we must be mindful. To be mindful about the affirmative, we must be constantly seeking the good in all things.
One of the most amazing examples of the power of words is Dr. Emoto's water crystal experiment. If you're not familiar with Emoto, you can view a brief video below, but basically, he studied how words, affirmation, prayer and intention affected the structure of water on a molecular level.
He published several books with the results, revealing that spoken or written words such as "love" created beautiful, perfect and symmetrical water crystals, where as words such as "hate" created deformed crystals. If the energy and intention behind the words create lasting negative or positive effects on water, how are they affecting our bodies and minds? (Especially knowing that we are made up of 70% water!)
In times of stress, transition, turmoil or change, affirmations and mantras can offer us powerful support.
One of the coolest parts about using your own words to create an intention is that they are YOURS. You can customize the energy and intention behind your affirmations and mantras based on your needs using words that make the most sense to you in the moment.
The main difference between an affirmation and a mantra is how it's used. In my understanding, affirmations are motivational whereas mantras are sacred. Either can be one word or a short phrase.
Affirmations are specific statements that help you to overcome self-sabotaging, negative thoughts. They help you visualize and create positive changes in your life. An affirmation might be a cute little note that you see each day as a reminder.
Mantra is a Sanskrit word, 'ma' meaning 'mind' and 'tra' meaning 'that which protects.' A mantra is a sacred utterance recited aloud or repeated internally during a spiritual practice. It is practiced in a more devotional way.
How to create your own affirmation or mantra:
- Understand the kleshas and the role they play in your life. The kleshas are a great place to begin when creating a meditation because they offer a clear picture of what is causing suffering in our lives.
- Rather than focusing on what you need LESS of, ask yourself: what types of support do I need to create undisturbed calmness in my mind? What positive attitudes, actions or thoughts do you need MORE of? Take time to brainstorm!
- Imagine that a wise friend is offering you sage advice. What might he/she say to offer encouragement?
- Using the words you've brainstormed, create a short phase beginning with "I have," "I am," "I trust/accept," "I am grateful for,"...etc. I like to write my affirmations in the present tense so that when they're repeated or read, it's as if you already have that energy.
Examples: I am confident, strong and precious. • I accept and love those around me with an open heart. • I am abundant. • I embrace this day with curiosity, enthusiasm and joy. • I trust my intuition and heart to guide me. • I offer honor and respect to others with every opportunity. • I am grounded, blessed and prosperous.
How to use your affirmation or mantra:
Write it out, print it out, hang it up. Study it. Write it on a stone to carry in your pocket. Use a mala to repeat the word(s) over and over. Read it out loud, meditate on it's meaning in your life, your body, your relationships, your mind...etc. Discover every opportunity to remind yourself of the word or words you're using. The key is to repeat the affirmation out-loud and with FEELING every single day, multiple times per day. If you take it seriously and dose regularly in the way you would take a medication, your body will begin to expect and absorb the benefits.
Proper affirmation and manrta technique is called 'auto-suggestion' and it's a way of tricking your subconscious mind into believing something you are trying to create.
Eventually, you will begin to notice the words coming to your mind unbidden, where there may have originally been something negative or an unhelpful attitude. Give thanks when that happens and get ready to create your next useful affirmation!
If you'd like a little jump start, download my 7 FREE affirmations for your week! Each one corresponds with one of the 7 major chakras or energy centers within the body. Try each one daily and then revisit the ones that felt most meaningful to you. Enjoy!
TIP: The colors that represent the 7 chakras are thought to promote and support the energy, mood and qualities of each one. As a bonus, you might wear each chakra color daily to help with visualization. Learn more about the 7 chakras here!